FBI searches Congressman’s home

FBI agents have searched the home of Republican Rep. John Doolittle, who is under scrutiny over his ties to convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Doolittle’s attorney said Wednesday.

The search last Friday focused on records of Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions Inc., a company run by Doolittle’s wife, Julie, said attorney David Barger. Julie Doolittle was on retainer for Abramoff from 2002-2004 for event-planning work.

The search of Doolittle’s home in Oakton, Va., occurred the same day that Kevin Ring, a former Doolittle aide who went on to work for Abramoff, abruptly resigned his law firm job without explanation.

Doolittle, a nine-term conservative from northern California, has denied wrongdoing.

“My wife has been cooperating with the FBI and the Justice Department for almost three years and that cooperation is going to continue in the future,” Doolittle said in a statement Wednesday. “I support my wife 100 percent and fully expect that the truth will prevail.”

Sierra Dominion’s records also were subpoenaed in 2004 by the grand jury looking into the Abramoff case. Abramoff pleaded guilty in January 2006 to conspiracy, mail fraud and other charges, admitting to bilking his Indian tribe clients out of tens of millions of dollars with promises to influence decisions coming out of Congress and the Interior Department.

Abramoff is cooperating with the government and one former Republican congressman, Bob Ney of Ohio, already is serving a jail term on a guilty plea in the case.

Doolittle called Abramoff a friend and has numerous ties to the lobbyist beyond his wife’s work. They include accepting campaign cash from Abramoff, using his sports box without initially reporting it as required and interceding with the Interior Department on behalf of Abramoff’s Indian tribe clients.

Two years before Julie Doolittle went to work for Abramoff, Ring discussed with Abramoff the possibility of getting her a job at a nonprofit accused of doing favors for Abramoff in exchange for cash. That 2000 exchange was disclosed in an e-mail released by Senate investigators last year, but the job in question didn’t come about.

Julie Doolittle was paid $66,690 by Abramoff’s firm Greenberg Traurig from September 2002 to February 2004. She was hired to work on a March 2003 fundraiser at the Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., but the event was canceled after the invasion of Iraq.

Julie Doolittle also did fundraising for her husband’s congressional campaigns until this year, when he hired an outside fundraiser. Doolittle’s employment of his wife became a controversy during his re-election last year, which he won only narrowly despite representing one of the most conservative districts in California.

Julie Doolittle’s attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment. FBI spokesman Rich Kolko declined to comment.

–ERICA WERNER

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Associated Press reporter Lara Jakes Jordan contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

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